A smile and a laugh like Her’s never fades

On the 17th, I was in Big Bear, for the second time in a month, for what started as a cleaning and redecorating project to prepare the cabin for sale. After 4 trips to the dump, it was clutter free and actually comfortable to be there. Alone at the cabin, while Gary and Trevor made the final trip to the dump to make room for the new furniture and beds… memories of the time Mom & Dad came up to play in the snow with nearly all of their grandchildren. As if it had been days ago (rather than 25 years) I could hear Mom laughing and talking to the kids as they made snowmen. I’m know I have photos of that day. hopefully I’ll be able to find them and add them to this post. I remember one photo in particular where they posed with the picaso-esque figure… Mom smiling like she was caught mid-laugh.

Gosh… come to think of it… i’m pretty sure every picture of her she’s caught smiling not posing with a smile. It was just naturally there whenever she was with family or friends, in fact think anyone would be hard press to remember a time when she wasn’t smiling, to her… life was beautiful and there was always a reason to smile.

In her last year, there were many time we had conversations that lead to tears… let me rephrase that… I WOULD BE IN TEARS. Come to think of it… i don’t recall even one single time seeing her cry… i would be crying and she, SHE WOULD BE SMILING!!!! Remember, that consoling comforting way she had? Not trying to stop you from crying, not making light of your sadness. I remember one time crying uncontrollably, wanting to stop, wanting to be brave but just not able to. I remember her holding me and talking (you could hear her smiling in her voice) I could feel the love and calm flowing from her. Man, didn’t everything about her just exude calm, love and happiness?

I miss that so much.

I had a particularly rough week this week with work, which is why I’m days late writing. Couple of jobs driving me crazy and the client constantly wanting to talk on the phone, sending text after text pushing the limits of the work I was already doing for free, to help land a big job. Anyway, was on a conference call at 7:30pm when I missed a call from Henry. When I didn’t answer, he texted me… I responded, telling him I’d call him at 9 when I expected to be done. When 9 came and went and the client was still pushing for more…. i wasn’t in the best of moods and warned Henry by text. We didn’t end up talking that night but yesterday Henry sent me a text, reminding me about something what Mom use to say… “don’t sweat the small stuff, and… it’s ALL small stuff.”

She even said that about cancer! She said… “I can do cancer standing on my head.”

So… I suppose I can handle a rough week. I just wish I didn’t have to do it without her. Everything was easier when she was here.

I miss HER so much. <3

Eight Years Without Her

Let me tell you about Helen. Although she had only one book published (Picture of Guilt), she had written four others: Cecille, Prelude to Love, Twice a Fool, and the Wild Game Supper. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I must take you back in time.

Nobody could make her do anything she really didn’t want to do. NOBODY!!. I started teaching her how to drive in Brooklyn, before we were married. Four years later, after failing the drivers test four times, she decided she didn’t want to push the stroller with the 3 kids one mile round-trip to the market, she decided to get licensed. It was not because I’d tried to cajole or embarrass her into it, but because she wanted it. Two weeks later, she was licensed.

At 45, she was working as a Library Aide in La Mirada when she decided to return to college to get her BA so she could be promoted to Full Librarian. She was aware that she would be 50 to achieve that goal as a part time student but she applied at Fullerton Jr College.

The school insisted she take a special update class for folks who’d been out of school for over 20 years but she refused, stating she was as prepared as any of our six kids who had graduated high school. They made an exception, and she was in.

As a freshman, she raised her hand so often, that, when she stopped, the teacher asked why she had stopped, to which she replied she was embarrassed to be the only one who apparently knew the answers.

On literature subjects and authors she particularly enjoyed, she read all the books on those subjects and authors rather than the ones required by the teachers. I saw all those books scattered around the house. She knew more about Kafka than her professor.

By the time she was a senior at CSUF, she would have been a straight ‘A’ student if it wasn’t for a ‘B+’ in Statistics and an ‘F’ in Music (which she loved) but had been mistakenly recorded as having many absences. She didn’t protest; grades were not high on her priority list. Learning was! With only 6 credits needed for her BA, she left school at the urging of two English teachers who asked her why such a good writer was still in school when she should be writing full time.

Despite all the above, Helen’s TOP priorities were not to be measured by Academia. That was all dwarfed by her love of God, family, friends, life and learning. Mimi had written, after Helen died, “I think I was trying to unravel the mystery of what unique combination of genetics and environment came together to create this remarkably strong and loving personality? I’m coming up with a big bang theory that only happens once every 20 billion years.”

It had to be more than luck that we met at a St Francis dance, miles from both our homes, on June 24,1953, one day after her 21st birthday. It was destiny.

Fifty years later, on her 74th birthday, I wrote to her:
“The sun is shining but it would make no difference if it were cloudy. If I am with you, it is always bright, even if we are inside with the lights on or off. I need only to
think your name to smile. Touching you face, your arm, your anything make me feel good. You make every day beautiful because you are beautiful. But on your birthday I sense it more, and it makes your birthday MY BEAUTIFUL DAY.

Helen loved everybody and everybody loved Helen, especially her #1 fan.

The Calm Before the Storm.

I was looking for photos of my mom today, the 8th anniversary of her passing, and came across these great pictures of her in Coronado with my boys. The location is a corner condo that had a view of both the beach and the bay (in case you are trying to place the spot). I think these were taken in the late 90’s, just one year before it was discovered that she had breast cancer. Definitely photos of the calm before the storm.

God, I miss her so much.  It seems like much longer than 8 years since she’s been gone.  I’ve needed her so much but I’m relieved that she didn’t have to bear watching Casey unravel these past 5 yrs or so.  Wish she was here to magically make it better; as we all think our mothers can do!  My Mom could always make me feel like everything was going to be OK.